Shall we dance? That’s the question Compass Commercial California is asking buyers with its “undisclosed” asking price for San Francisco’s historic Regency Ballroom.
The brokerage listed the 65,000-square-foot 1909 building along the Van Ness Corridor with an emphasis on its development potential, not its current use, as what its sellers called “the largest privately owned entertainment venue on the West Coast.”
Listing agent and Compass Commercial California President Steve Pugh said he couldn’t reveal a price range or say what other recent sales were used as comps for the unique property. He did say via email that he and his team had to “create an ‘out of the box’ valuation strategy” that took into account the venue’s central location as well as its combination of “architectural significance” and “future possibilities.”
“Pricing or price expectations are tougher to achieve with properties such as The Regency. This is definitely not a square peg-square hole opportunity whereby comparable sales are readily available,” he said.
The property hasn’t changed hands many times since it began its life over a century ago as a masonic lodge for the Scottish Rite. The masons sold it in the 1960s and it was used as a movie theater, banquet hall and dance studio for nearly four decades. Scott Robertson and brothers David and Lee Banks purchased the property more than 20 years ago for $3.7 million. Their initial plans to renovate the Beaux Arts building to keep the movie theater and dance studio while also adding office space evolved into its current use as an event and music venue, Pugh said.
Concerts and events have been hit hard everywhere since the pandemic, especially in San Francisco, where city regulations left many nightlife venues shuttered for over a year. Yet Pugh didn’t mention COVID when discussing why the longtime owners had decided to sell.
“The ownership has had the honor of serving as the stewards of the Regency for many years and now feel it’s time to pass the torch and allow a new visionary to take the property into the future,” he said.
That vision could involve continuing the building’s main current use as a concert hall that can hold up to 1,400 people. It has been managed by concert promoter Goldenvoice since 2008 and hosted headliners ranging from Morrissey to Wu Tang Clan to Cyndi Lauper. It has concerts scheduled through June 2022.
The future owner could also take advantage of the building’s zoning and location near a large Sutter CPMC campus to add several more levels to the five-story building for medical offices or residential condos. The historic current building could become anything from a gym with a swimming pool to a private supper club, according to the marketing materials. The whole building could also be turned into a “trophy corporate headquarters” with a “dramatic rooftop terrace.”
Whatever the property becomes, it will take years of planning and permitting, with an emphasis on historic preservation, in a city that can’t even agree to turn a department store parking lot into much-needed housing.
Despite the potential hurdles, Pugh said that since the building came to market just last week, “the opportunity has been well received” and he’s been approached by “a diverse group of investors.”
“Many of course are familiar with the current use and in fact some have attended concerts and other events there,” he said. “It’s difficult at this early stage [to say] what type of investor group will find the opportunity most attractive.”